The 3 “R’s”: Rigor, Relevancy, Relationships

Diane Demée-Benoit from the George Lucas Foundation mentioned the 3 R’s today in her talk about Technology-Infused Project-Based Learning at the annual OTEN conference in Portland today.

She mentioned the importance of raising the bar in education. Instead of saying, “do a ‘PowerPoint’ on rain forests”, teachers need to ask questions and curriculum needs to be based on inquiry research, centered around critical questions, and deeper levels of thinking.

Problem-based or project-based learning provides opportunities for students to engage actively and self direct their learning. It provides connections with outside experts and resources. It is a cooperative learning environment where students are active in creating the learning activities around a project.

King Middle School, Maine

Diane showed a video about how Maine’s King Middle School used the laptops from their program to transform their curriculum. Instead of buying textbooks for students, they bought laptops for every 7th grade student in the state. The students at King Middle School developed multimedia reports, CDs, videos, and newsletters regarding field experience, and expedition learning projects they engaged in.

Every student had access to high quality learning and produced excellent products. Students were working together on collaborative projects and the curriculum was integrative of multiple subject areas. Art students produced scientifically accurate water color illustrations for the project, the orchestra produced the soundtrack for the project, and the media/film department developed a documentary about how the project was created. Summing up the experience at King Middle School, one of the students said, “No one around here feels like they are stupid any more.”

Nuuana Elementary, Honolulu, Hawaii

  • Let every kid, not just the “good kids” use the technology, otherwise everyone won’t have an opportunity to learn.
  • Students created autobiographies and histories of their families using multimedia tools. They were able to find ways to communicate about their family history using audio, pictures, and video, as well as writing.
  • The students at Nuuana engaged in a project where they collected data about a local stream’s health. They worked together with the city’s department that keeps track of water quality and captured and produced a video of the work that they did together. One of the city’s scientists commented that the kids who are participating in projects like this realize that “[These are] not just lessons, this is real life.”
  • It’s ok if there are technical issues in the midst of a project–let the kids work out and solve the problems themselves.

Union City, New Jersey

Turn around story. In 1989 they had the worst test scores. Today, they have the highest test scores in the state. They focused on the following principles:

  • Early literacy
  • Project based learning
  • Infusion of technology in every aspect of learning
  • All education should focus on the child

Made changes in how they spent money: they spent less on textbooks and spent more on computers and changed their curriculum to more project-based learning exercises. As the elementary students made their way into middle and high school, they became a force of change in the high school. Teachers who used traditional teaching methods were challenged by students who had spent their elementary and middle school years engaged in project based learning using the internet for research. Instead of relying on encyclopedias in the library, these students would engage in active research on the internet.


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